We just finished playing one of the weirdest games of Ultimate Frisbee ever.
Hugging, Laughing, and (some of us) collapsing in the crisp mid-autumn afternoon. I lied down across Art’s stomach and let my arms and bare feet rest on the cool grass of the field. We had fun. As I got up to get going on to the next thing, Art said, “hey Eric, you’ve got those earmuffs out, and that blanket that’s been out for a few days now.” Just like that I was off to take care things I had strewn about the community over the course of a very busy weekend.
As I went toward the ear-muffs, chainsaw, extension chord, and other things I borrowed from different folks in the community, I remembered a host of other odds and ends I needed to take care of. I felt fortunate to get reminded of them at just the moment that I had the time and energy to take care of them, and once I got into ‘take care of things mode,’ the energy started taking care of other things too.
I thought about how many times I try to get kids to do challenging things that I know they actually want to do, or things I believe they may benefit from. I thought about the times my requests, reminders, and nudges fall flatter than a pancake underneath a steamroller driven by an elephant with impacted bowels.
Then I thought about how many times I gently say “hey, what about _____,” or “let’s do _____”, and they go “oh, yeah!” and get right to it.
Something clicked there for me. Art caught me in transition between activities, and when I didn’t have a clear plan for what to do next. If Art reminded me at the beginning of the frisbee game, or while I was on task earlier in the day, if Art emailed me, or if Art mentioned something in passing, I would have forgotten. But, Art and I played frisbee together, and then he recognized my transition, and offered up the opportunity to move onto an intention that I would have otherwise forgotten.
If you catch me in transition, you can effect my path.
The virtues of patience, persistence, and humility, like so most beautiful living things, do not get a lot of nurturance from western culture. As a consumptive media flashes and dances in liminal spaces to establish a sense of a relationship with my kids. I also want some influence.
I want some influence to nurture their patience, persistence, and humility. You may call them digital natives, and I wouldn’t argue with that, but I have friends who come from multiple places, and I don’t feel ready to let got of their nativity to the Earth. I want to Lorax. And I want to Lorax effectively.
Recognizing transitions, and knowing how to engage with them seems like a pretty important skill. The consumer media definitely knows this, as it uses and even creates transitional space to influence and manipulate people. Think about the billboards and advertisements you see on the subway, freeway, and sidewalks as you transit(ion) between one thing and another; the commercial breaks, so ubiquitous on radio, television, and youtube; or even the little plugs at the end and beginning of interviews, speeches, and events; and how often does some subtle and humorous commercial phrase pop up in everyday conversation when a gap appears?
Big Media knows about transitions, and he uses them to influence people to make sugary, processed, big screen-y choices that (in my humble, objective, and entirely unbiased opinion) have a horrifyingly toxic effect on the health and well being of human and non-human life all over the planet.
Plus, they fight with such fire! Teams of gifted Artists, Designers, Marketers, Performers, Chemists (for food?!), Social Scientists, Engineers, and Salespeople dress up hyper-stimulating junk with more hyperstimulating language, imagery, packaging, and ooy-gooy rhymy-slimy meme-iness. Sometimes it feels really, really, really, really, really hard to support people in making choices that don’t taste, look, sound, and feel so intensely and instantly sweet and stimulating.
Choices like cleaning up after ourselves, taking time to work on a drawing, climb a tree, staring at clouds, or slogging through the often lumbering/awkward early stages of almost any new skill worth acquiring. I have confidence high enough to border on overconfidence, have a good deal of energy, and a reasonable facility with communication, and/but in this department, I still often feel completely inadequate. And I only really care about this department!
Consumer culture and I both have familiarity with my kids’ tastes, interests, developmental capacities, turn ons, and turn offs. Hell, consumer culture has actually defined many of them. I can sing, and I can dance, but I can’t compete with thousands of left and right brain professionals who use their powers of persuasion and their materials and process prowess to sell ‘Monster’ to my kids. At least, I can’t compete by singing and dancing at them.
I can, however, sing and dance with them, share space with them, get to know them individually, seek them out in the depths of their dreams, and stay watchful for glimpses of their fires, their gifts, and their passions. Then, when I can catch them in a transition and say “hey, what about _____,” or “let’s do _____,” and they, knowing I love them, sometimes, can hear me.
And if I am humble, and patient, and persistent, and I can catch, and they can hear, the maybe, just maybe, they might watch a few more clouds, eat a few more veggies, and save a few more truffula trees.
Catch me in transition.
You can shift me there.
And if we just finished frisbee,
I’ll hear, and know you care.